By Greg Johnson
The Gaylord Golf Mecca, a division of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau, and the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City were honored recently at the 2018 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism with the Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration for marketing efforts to bring golfers from Texas to Michigan.
The Michigan Travel Commission recognized the organizations during the three-day event presented by the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association in late March in Grand Rapids, Michigan for their “excellent representation of the spirit of innovation and collaboration in their work to enhance the reputation, quality, and value of the Michigan tourism experience,” according to the award certificate.
The team of Paul Beachnau, executive director of the Gaylord Golf Mecca; Barry Owens, chairman of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau and general manager at Treetops Resort; Sandy Mattingly, vice-chair of the bureau and owner at Pine Cone Properties; Doug DeYoung, chairman of the regional airport commission; and Susan Wilcox Olson, principal of Grand Bay Promotions; accepted the award at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Kevin Klein, airport manager at Cherry Capital Airport, was unable to attend the conference, but also played a critical role.
“We could not have done this by ourselves,” Beachnau said. “For years we have wanted to go into a warm weather market, but we were certainly not going to be able to do it on our own. So when [the airport] came to us, we started six years of hard work. Our team literally went out knocking on doors [in Dallas] and the reaction was: ‘who, what?’ Now they see us at the regional golf show in Dallas and they say ‘you’re that group from Michigan.’”
The six-year effort was highlighted last year with the development of non-stop air service between Dallas-Fort Worth to Traverse City, and the new route turned a profit in its inaugural year as southern golfers made the trip to Michigan. Texas golfers are now third on the list of golfers from other states to visit the Gaylord Golf Mecca, which is a group of 15 courses and 20 partners for lodging in a marketing group created nearly 30 years ago.
“People ask ‘why Dallas?’ and there are several reasons. There is a historical connection through the oil and gas industry. The companies based in Texas have been in Otsego County, which is number one in natural gas production and number three in oil for the state of Michigan,” Beachnau said.
“Dallas is the fourth largest golf market in North America as well, and the weather is stifling in the summer. It’s too hot to play golf there. In addition, that area is a great outbound travel market, in the top 10 in the United States. There are a lot of good reasons that market made sense. It really was a perfect match,” Beachnau added.
Beachnau also said the recognition is fantastic for the Gaylord area and the Mecca, and perhaps the most rewarding aspect from it has been the direct feedback from Texas golfers who have visited the Mecca.
“They tell us that the golf courses in the Gaylord Golf Mecca are nicer than the nicest courses in Dallas,” Beachnau said. “I think sometimes we take it for granted. We might be spoiled in Michigan. We always felt we had a great product with great courses, and they confirm it for us.”